Generation Z: Five Surprising Insights

HR & Safety

New research sheds light on attitudes, behaviors

They want to drive to their jobs, head into their private offices and meet face-to-face with colleagues before calling it a day: hopefully, not too late, since work-life balance is their primary career concern. Sound like a baby boomer, or even Gen X? On the contrary, these are the work preferences expressed by more than 770 members of Generation Z (those born between 1990 and 1999) surveyed recently by Robert Half and Enactus.

“Gen Z employees bring unique values, expectations, and perspectives to their jobs,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “They’ve grown up in economically turbulent times, and many of their characteristics and motivations reflect that.”

Following are five surprising insights based on the research:

1. Open floor plans? Hot startups? Nah, this group’s tastes skew more Mad Men than Silicon Valley.

  • Forty-one percent described midsize organizations as the ideal work environment, followed by large organizations (38%). Only 14% cited startups.
  • Forty-five percent of respondents prefer to work in a private office, and face-to-face communication is the method of choice for 74%.

2. They’re not exactly bubbling over with youthful optimism. Meet the ‘reality-check’ generation.

  • Seventy-seven percent believe they will need to work harder compared to those in past generations to have a satisfying and fulfilling professional life.
  • Balancing work and personal obligations was the top future career concern for 28% of respondents, followed by making enough money (26%) and finding a stable job (23%).

3. A gold watch marking decades of service may not be in the cards, but they do plan to stay a while at their jobs: and move quickly up the ladder.

  • Gen Zers expect to work for an average of four companies throughout their lifetimes.
  • Thirty-two percent believe they will be managing employees in a corporate environment within the next five years.
  • One in three would like to retire by the age of 60, but only 17% think it will be possible.

4. Forget fancy job titles: they mainly want more responsibility and an honest boss.

  • Opportunity for career growth was the most commonly cited career priority, with 64% of respondents ranking it among their top three. An impressive job title was only cited as a priority by 3%.
  • Honesty/integrity was the top quality sought in a boss, cited by 38% of respondents; this was followed by mentoring ability (21%).

5. Collaboration shouldn’t be a problem, say Gen Zers, except with those baby boomers.

  • Forty-five percent cited potential challenges working with baby boomers, compared to 17% who anticipate difficulties with Gen X and 5% with Gen Yers.

Bev Graham, Ph.D., vice president of Enactus USA programs, says, “Gen Z professionals are full of potential, but these young adults will need support in honing their skills and harnessing their enthusiasm to address real-world employment situations, such as the need to communicate more formally in certain situations.”

Added McDonald, “This group of professionals has grown up with technology available to them around the clock and is accustomed to constant learning. Companies with a solid understanding of this generation’s values and preferences will be well prepared to create work environments that attract a new generation of employees and maximize their potential.”

To view infographics, learn more about the research, and download the white paper, click here.

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